Travel: Finland

Knitting: Finland Yarn Scarf

Finland yarn scarfI’m currently working on the scarf made from the fluffy white downy yarn I picked up in Finland, made in Finland. I didn’t realize how perfect the yarn was as the time, but it does embody the feelings and experience we had. It’s turning out to be my favorite scarf so far and working on it is reminding me of the wonderful Kaivolampi cabin.

Working on size 10.5 needles with 20 stitches across in a simple Garter stitch. This yarn has a texture that lends itself to a simple stitch revealing fuzzy ridges.

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The Finland Place holder

We’re back from Finland. Spent a few days in Helsinki while Mark worked and then we took a real vacation. We rented a little cabin a further 100 km north of Helsinki, on it’s own lake (nearest neighbor 600 meters away) in a land that never got dark we were that far north!

Heaps to write about, many many photos forthcoming now that I’m back into touch with the internet :)

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Finland – Kaivolampi Cottage

Deb with dock and reflectionSpending these days at this cabin has galvanized our desires to find the property of our dreams. This cabin was really perfect. So perfect we were sad to leave. We didn’t have that usual feeling you get toward the end of a bout of traveling, you know the feeling, of just wanting to get home, to your own bed. No, there was none of that this time. We wanted to stay, or at least, realizing we need to find something like this for ourselves. Far enough away to have the seclusion and quiet but just close enough to civilization for the things we need.

I hope and think when we finally return to living in the United States, we’ll start looking for that secluded cabin and sell our house. It was clear that this is what we want, I mean, we knew this, we’ve always have said it was our dream. We’ll make sure to make it happen sooner rather than later.

On our way back from the cabin, we would pass mobs and mobs of vibrant arctic lupines blooming everywhere. I’ll end my Finland blogging with a frolic in the flowers:

Jump! Deb with arctic lupine

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Finland – Kaivolampi Cottage

Mark afloat on our little lake, me out with the binoculars on the hill top:

Mark having a float Looking for what's making that strange noise!

The Complete Photo Set for I fear I just want to post every single photo

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Finland – Kaivolampi Cottage

Birch barkAs a biologist, I know, the further north or higher altitude, the less diverse the flora and fauna become. You know these things, but they don’t become real until they are contextualized. Until you see it, you don’t realize just how strange it is.

Flakey pine barkI sit here looking at the forest around me. Birch and pine. Pine and birch. Are there really just these two dominant tree species? Yes. I mean there are other trees, but when you look at the whole, you see the dark blackness of the pine highlighted by white streaks of birch bark. There are a handful of birds we hear singing their cheerful calls, there is a chorus of buzzing from the bees and flies, but mostly, these woods are silent. Where is the scurrying on the forest floor? I sit in complete silence admiring the simplicity of the beauty of this place.

There are few butterflies about, largely they are in the tree tops, pale browns and creams, flitting about frantically without stopping. Small shocks of orange flash by, tiny skippers. A cabbage white here and sulfur there. We’re near water, so there are the dragonflies and water striders. But overall, there doesn’t seem to be much *out* (if that makes sense). It was simply beautiful there and I should leave it at that.

Deb in the Finland Despite the moose crossing warning signs along the roads approaching where the cabin was, we saw no moose. There were piles of dried scat around the cabin that was too large to just be the roe deer, we hiked up to a hill top and Mark poked at something, “what’s this?” he asked (touch touch), “looks like poo to me!” I said. We heard some strange noises coming from the woods and tried to track it down, it turned out to be a large corvid making rather guttural grunting noises.

Another night passes where we just marvel at how light it stays so late, here I am at 10:30 pm where the sun still hasn’t dropped below the horizon, although I’m in silhouette you could read outside at midnight, it’s a slow setting process and didn’t get too much darker than this. At midsummer, the longest day of the year, Helsinki shuts down while everyone heads north and into the woods to celebrate. It’s almost the longest day, we’re doing as Finns do.

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Finland – Kaivolampi Cottage

detail of stones that get heatedRecipe for complete relaxation: sit in a wood fired sauna until well done (i.e. sopping with sweat) complete with lashings from wilted thin birch branches, then jump into cool water of a lake in Finland. Lather, rinse, repeat. Did I mention we we’re doing this at midnight? Because it was still light out?

I admit, I was reticent about hopping into the cool water, the thermocline was pretty shallow and even colder water lay deeper. But it was such a wonderful experience, the water felt great and even when I hopped out of the water I wasn’t chilled, I was so warmed by the sauna.

I don’t think we could have picked a more perfect place if we tried. Since we’re here for a few days most of what we’re doing involves a lot of low impact and probably not that exciting to others, but exciting to us sort of stuff. Like laying around in the sun, floating on the water, being in the water, reading some brain candy (truth be told, I’m taking this time to re-read the last two tome-like Harry Potter’s to refresh my memory before the next book and movie come out), eating lightly (at least that’s the plan) and taking photos, lots of photos, these posts are going to be largely photographic

A dragonfly in flight while we went out for a paddle in the row boat, the thousands of tadpoles in our little lake that would delicately nibble on your hands and feet when we dipped them into the water, one of the many small orange butterflies flitting from spot to spot and the shiny emerald of a beetle:

Dragonfly in flight Tadpoles! Thousands of tadpoles in our lake!
Orange butterfly TBD beetle tbd

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Finland: Kalvola area – Kaivolampi Cottage

The perfect little cabin we rented 125 km north of HelsinkiIn need of taking some actual vacation time, we rented a cabin near Kalvola, 120 some km further north of Helsinki for a few days.

This is the farthest north that either Mark or I have ever been. At approximately 61°00’51” N and 24°09′ E (I’m estimating with Google Earth here).

We are the only cabin on a little body of water, a tiny private lake, in a country that has more lakes than any other country, upwards of over 188,000, it wasn’t hard to find cabins on lakes to rent with so many websites out there. Our nearest neighbor is 600m away, we have our own dock, a rowboat and a sauna attached to the cabin. In my search, contacting places to rent from, the sauna was often more important than a place having bathroom facilities. I was told, “you bathe in the Finnish way, in the sauna”

It’s all about us relaxing together, Mark’s been overdue for a real vacation and this is looking to be just perfect.

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Finland: Helsinki – National Museum of Finland

Thousands of potted flowers on stairs of Helsinki Parliament buildingGerbia Daisy, all in pots on the stairs of Helsinki ParliamentOn my way to the museum du jour, I walked by the Helsinki Parliament building. I’m not sure what was going on, however, lining the stairs were thousands of potted flowering plants, mostly Gerbia daisies. It was attracting a lot of attention and was just set up yesterday. A news search hasn’t helped in finding explanation, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled because it was such a curious and large display.

A recipe for nightmaresThe aforementioned museum du jour happened to be the National Museum of Finland which is a museum of the anthropology, history and culture of Finland. I thought I would mix it up a bit here, foregoing the botanical garden and the natural history museum. The stained glass window in the stairwell celebrating archaeologia, historia and ethnographia like saints in a cathedral. Within the halls of Finnish furniture was a line of grandfather clocks. Amidst them exists a nightmare, clearly one of them will come to life in the night!

I enjoyed the signs throughout the exhibits asking, “find the odd one out?” a “which one of these is not like the other?” scavenger hunt. Like a cell phone hidden in with neolithic pottery and sherds. Not tricky stuff, but when only half the exhibits had English explanations, it was entertaining none the less.

This evening we were treated to a boat tour. Two of Mark’s work partners in Helsinki offered to give us a tour of Helsinki and parts of the surrounding archipelago on their motorboat. This was an amazing way to see the city and that corner of the Baltic Sea.

Granite shoreline of FinlandWe envied the chalets hidden on the wooded islands. So many people out sailing made us miss our catamaran which has sat neglected. The kayakers, fishermen and swimmers in the channels. The water clearly an important part of Finnish recreation. They get seals as the only large sea animals in these waters, the occasional dolphin but only when they are quite lost.

What was particularly striking was the amazing geology we were seeing. We saw this on the fortress island we were on too. Finland is made of granites and gneisses, great boulders and layers showing fantastic deformation patterns right up to the waters edge. Apparently the water can have depths up to 25 meters right on the shore’s edge.

We capped the night by boating right up to a restaurant on the water’s edge. We couldn’t have planned a better night and are grateful to our hosts for offering a great boat ride in the Baltic.

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Finland: Helsinki – Seurasaari Open Air Museum

Museum shop included historic shop items as an exhibitI made my way over to the Seurasaari Open Air Museum, this is a very neat and unique museum on an island to the west of Helsinki. Founded in the early 1900’s the museum has buildings brought from various regions of the country, representing different times in history which have been reassembled on this island.

Yes?  Do you have something for me?Apparently log construction was almost the sole technique of “vernacular” building (techniques native to Finland) throughout documented history until the mid 20th century, dating back to the Iron Age a thousand years ago. Tenant farms, granaries, a windmill, homes showing the spectrum of socio-economic differences, a church, 85 buildings in all. Even the museum shop was well stocked with period pieces of merchandise from the 19th century from when it was built.

The museum only took up a small portion of the island, the rest of which was riddled with hiking trails which I spent the rest of the afternoon hiking. There were these red squirrels clamoring about all over the place just being adorable. Tits looking like chickadees were circling my head, small fluffy ducklings in the ponds, all very Snow White amidst the wild flowers.

I was looking for something different for dinner this evening and found a place that was a few blocks away from the busy center of the city. I was intrigued by some reviews, one in particular saying, “the garlic beer was refreshing.” So we headed to the Garlic Restaurant. Despite having the beginnings of a little cold, I enjoyed a garlic cream soup and a steak wrapped in bacon with a red wine and garlic sauce. Good thing we’re garlic lovers.

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Finland: Helsinki – Soumenlinna Sveaborg

The Lutheran Cathedral of HelsinkiOur first full day around Helsinki just took us for a walk around town, through the open air market in the Market Square near the pier and stopping for lunch and people watching. All the cafes along the Pohjoisesplanadi (the main thoroughfare down to the pier) had seating facing out toward the street. Everyone faced the same direction, perfect for people watching, but odd to see.

We took a ferry over to Soumenlinna Sveaborg. This is rather like the Kastelette we visited in Denmark, a large island fortress. Soumenlinna, a 250 year old fortress built during Swedish rule, is a world heritage site. With the days so long, it was just nice to lazily stroll around the island, onto the granite lining the shore, enjoy a few pear ciders (which the Fins really know how to make a good pear cider) and seeing our twins everywhere we look! This is the first place Mark and I have visited that we could easily pass as natives.

Deb in Soumenlinna SveaborgWe ended up having dinner at a Lapland themed restaurant, the first one recommended to me was closed on Sundays (as were many places in Helsinki), but we ended up at Lappi. Here we enjoyed eating northern Finland delicacies of reindeer and elk, with dessert of a farmers cheese served with cinnamon cream and cloudberry jam. The reindeer wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. I thought it would be quite gamy, like deer, but it was much more beef like in flavor, but extremely lean.

On a recommendation a friend received on the flight over we found our selves later in the evening at the Arctic Ice Bar. Mark joked that we’d be in the bars freezer, which wasn’t far from the truth. Yes it was small, but pretty cool (pun intended). Clearly it’s a place for tourists to come in, have a few frozen giggles with a vodka drink, take a few nutty photos and be on our merry way. They fortunately provided capes to where to keep warm, I ended up wearing Mark’s cape too. Note to self, next time I plan to be in a bar made entirely of ice, don’t wear open toed sandals.

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Finland: Helsinki – Twilight

It’s 12:45 in the morning and it’s still not *quite* dark out. Dusk, or a really odd surreal twilight sunset on the horizon, well after midnight.

Weather Underground doesn’t have super detailed “twilight times” (nautical and astronomical) listed, just civil twilight until the sun rises at 4:00 am.

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